Clarity in Sentencing: R v WK Case Illustrates Importance of Judicial Precision in Sentence Modifications

Citation: [2023] EWCA Crim 1678
Judgment on


The case of R v WK, as reflected in the neutral citation number [2023] EWCA Crim 1678, pertains to a judgment delivered by the Court of Appeal Criminal Division on 14th December 2023. Presided over by Lord Justice Davis, Sir David Calvert-Smith, and The Recorder of Middlesbrough (His Honour Judge Bourne-Arton KC), this case involves a sentencing review which had been previously addressed by an appeal on a Reference by the Attorney General ([2017] EWCA Crim 1684). The case serves as an important study on sentence clarification and adjustment post-judgment to reflect the court’s intent.

Key Facts

The case originated from a sentencing judgment in the Crown Court where the defendant, identified as W K, was sentenced to a total custodial term of 12 years’ imprisonment with an extended licence period of one year on counts 3 and 4. This sentence was deemed insufficient upon appeal, and the court increased it to a total custodial term of 16 years with a similar licence period. However, a lack of clarity arose in the original judgment concerning the combination of concurrent and consecutive individual sentences, leading to potential ambiguity around the offender’s release date.

The legal principles applied in this case are rooted in the court’s inherent power to ensure clarity in its orders to accurately reflect its sentencing intention. The focus is on the modification of a judgment to achieve precision in the original intent of the court. The following principles can be identified:

  1. Appeal on Sentencing:

    • The court’s authority to review and rectify sentencing post an appeal under Section 36 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 is pivotal. This case references a previous appeal ([2017] EWCA Crim 1684), wherein the Attorney General had referred the original sentence for being unduly lenient.
  2. Sentence Adjustment:

    • The principle of adjusting individual sentences for concurrent and consecutive terms to match the overall sentencing intent of an appellate court is exemplified. The court clarifies and rectifies how individual sentences should be structured to lead to the appropriate total custodial term.
  3. Clarity in Judicial Orders:

    • The duty of the court to ensure that its judgment unequivocally communicates the sentence and that the written order lacks ambiguity reflects a broader legal principle of avoiding misinterpretation, which could adversely affect the administration of justice.


Following the identification of lack of clarity and potential ambiguity in the sentencing, the following outcomes were reached:

  1. Paragraph 31 of the initial judgment and the corresponding order were to be adjusted.

  2. The sentences on counts were structured to achieve the 16-year total custodial term, with sentences on counts 26 and 32 made concurrent inter se, and count 22 to follow consecutively.

  3. The explicit adjustment of a four-year term on count 23 to run concurrently ensures cohesion in executing the full sentence.

  4. An affirmation of the sentence ensures a clear understanding of the release date of the offender.


The Court of Appeal Criminal Division’s judgment in R v WK underscores the importance of clarity and precision in judicial sentencing and orders. This case highlights the necessity for appellate courts not only to deliver justice through revising sentences considered too lenient but also to ensure that the exactness of legal directives is maintained to prevent any ambiguity. The meticulous adjustment of the particulars of the sentenced terms, in this case, serves as a reminder of the judiciary’s commitment to an unequivocal and accurate legal process.